Vet Tech Said Old Dull Nail Clippers Used To Declaw Cat-Fur Rips Off With Bandages

City the Kitty Advocate for Animals
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Most cat owners who declaw their cats see cute photos of their kitties like this after they’ve barbarically had their toe bones amputated.
In the comment section is a GRAPHIC photo of what often happens after they unwrap the bandages. (photo of kitties isn’t related to the photo that the vet tech sent me)
The world needs to see the truth about what is being done to around 10 million cats a YEAR in America by unethical declawing vets.
Here is the sad note I received from a vet tech last week.
Dear City,
I have been a vet tech for many years. For the past several years I have refused to participate in the declawing of cats. However, in the animal hospital I most recently worked for, a best of the best accredited veterinary hospital on the east coast, I still had to deal with declaw recovery, pain management, and horrid bandage removals.
Here is a photo from a very real bandage removal. For some cats the removal of their bandages is so painful that they need to be put under anesthesia AGAIN in order to remove the tape and gauze, often the gauze sticks to their dried, bloody paws, and well, you can see how much fur the tape rips off.
The vet used an old pair of nail clippers to declaw cats. The techs cleaned and sterilized them as best they could but they were never sharpened. I no longer work at this practice, but unless declawing becomes illegal, this barbaric procedure will continue to go on.
I saw it.
I held those darling cats as they woke up in agony. It’s not okay. We know better, so we need to do better. Thanks City.

A concerned vet tech

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Declawed & Dumped-Egret & Maddie-Have Toe Joints That Wouldn’t Fully Extend From Years Of Walking Abnormally

Egret & MaddieAlbumsEgret & Maddie
7 Photos · Updated about an hour ago
This is Egret (Black & White) & Maddie (White) from our friends at the League City Animal Shelter just south of Houston. These poor girls were surrendered for unknown reasons. They were taken to see Dr. Nicole Martell-Moran at the Feline Medical Center in Houston for a paw evaluation last week. A couple of very small bone fragments were seen on the Xray however they are so small that surgery is most likely not going to be beneficial for them. On physical exam Maddie would not allow her back to be pet and tried to bite multiple times and both had toe joints that wouldn’t fully extend from years of walking abnormally. Both girls had small shriveled paw pads with small pressure sores on them. A pain and anxiety medication trial will be started for both cats that will hopefully increase their chances of finding a forever home. Please wish them luck as we continue to work with them to relieve their discomfort!

 

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Understanding Declawing (Onychectomy)

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The Truth About Declawing
The Cat’s Claws

Unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of the paws or feet, cats are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat’s weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat’s claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold – similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. Removal of the last digits of the toes drastically alters the conformation of their feet and causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.
Understanding Declawing (Onychectomy)

The anatomy of the feline claw must be understood before one can appreciate the severity of declawing. The cat’s claw is not a nail as is a human fingernail, it is part of the last bone (distal phalanx) in the cat’s toe. The cat’s claw arises from the unguicular crest and unguicular process in the distal phalanx of the paw (see above diagram). Most of the germinal cells that produce the claw are situated in the dorsal aspect of the ungual crest. This region must be removed completely, or regrowth of a vestigial claw and abcessation results. The only way to be sure all of the germinal cells are removed is to amputate the entire distal phalanx at the joint.

Contrary to most people’s understanding, declawing consists of amputating not just the claws, but the whole phalanx (up to the joint), including bones, ligaments, and tendons! To remove the claw, the bone, nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be amputated. Thus declawing is not a “simple”, single surgery but 10 separate, painful amputations of the third phalanx up to the last joint of each toe. A graphic comparison in human terms would be the cutting off of a person’s finger at the last joint of each finger.

Image describing the painful declawing amputation surgery
Many vets and clinic staff deliberately misinform and mislead clients into believing that declawing removes only the claws in the hopes that clients are left with the impression that the procedure is a “minor” surgery comparable to spay/neuter procedures and certainly doesn’t involve amputation (partial or complete) of the terminal-toe bone, ligaments and tendons. Some vets rationalize the above description by saying that since the claw and the third phalanx (terminal toe bone) are so firmly connected, they simply use the expression “the claw” to make it simpler for clients to “understand”. Other vets are somewhat more honest and state that if they used the word “amputation”, most clients would not have the surgery performed! Onychectomy in the clinical definition involves either the partial or total amputation of the terminal bone. That is the only method. What differs from vet to vet is the type of cutting tool used (guillotine-type cutter, scalpel or laser).

Onychectomy (Declawing) Surgery

Claws with nerves and ligaments
The below is a clinical description of the the declawing surgery taken from a leading veterinary surgical textbbook. Contrary to misleading information, declawing is not a “minor” surgery comparable to spaying and neutering procedures, it is 10, seperate, painful amputations of the distal phalanx at the joint (disjointing).

“The claw is extended by pushing up under the footpad or by grasping it with Allis tissue forceps. A scalpel blade is used to sharply dissect between the second and third phalanx over the top of the ungual crest . The distal interphalangeal joint is disarticulated (disjointed), and the deep digital flexor tendon is incised (severed). The digital footpad, is not incised. If a nail trimmer is used, the ring of the instrument is placed in the groove between the second phalanx and the ungual crest. The blade is positioned just in front of the footpad. The blade is pushed through the soft tissues over the flexor process. With the ring of the nail trimmer in position behind the ungual crest, the blade is released just slightly so that traction applied to the claw causes the flexor process to slip out and above the blade. At this point, the flexor tendon can be incised and disarticulation of the joint (disjointing) completed. Both techniques effectively remove the entire third phalanx.”

SoftPaws Is Your Couch In Danger
(Excerpted from: Slatter D; Textbook of Small Animal Surgery 2nd ed vol I, p.352 W.B. Saunders Company Philadelphia).

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Complications

Declawing is not without complication. The rate of complication is relatively high compared with other so-called routine procedures. Complications of this amputation can be excruciating pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible to the eye, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken.

Other complications include postoperative hemorrhage, either immediate or following bandage removal is a fairly frequent occurrence, paw ischemia, lameness due to wound infection or footpad laceration, exposure necrosis of the second phalanx, and abscess associated with retention of portions of the third phalanx. Abscess due to regrowth must be treated by surgical removal of the remnant of the third phalanx and wound debridement. During amputation of the distal phalanx, the bone may shatter and cause what is called a sequestrum, which serves as a focus for infection, causing continuous drainage from the toe. This necessitates a second anesthesia and surgery. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes. Infection will occasionally occur when all precautions have been taken.

“Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s ‘toes’. When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing.”
Christianne Schelling, DVM

“General anesthesia is used for this surgery, which always has a certain degree of risk of disability or death associated with it. Because declawing provides no medical benefits to cats, even slight risk can be considered unacceptable. In addition, the recovery from declawing can be painful and lengthy and may involve postoperative complications such as infections, hemorrhage, and nail regrowth. The latter may subject the cat to additional surgery.” The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)

Two recent studies published in peer-reviewed veterinary journals (Vet Surg 1994 Jul-Aug;23(4):274-80) concluded “Fifty percent of the cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery…. 19.8% developed complications after release..” Another study (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Aug 1;213(3):370-3) comparing the complications of declawing with Tenectomy concluded “Owners should be aware of the high complication rate for both procedures.” Many cats also suffer a loss of balance because they can no longer achieve a secure foothold on their amputated stumps.

Vet Surg 1994 Jul-Aug;23(4):274-80. Feline Onychectomy at a Teaching Institution: A Retrospective Study of 163 Cases.

Tobias KS Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Pullman 99164-6610.

“One hundred sixty-three cats underwent onychectomy… Fifty percent of the cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery. Early postoperative complications included pain…, hemorrhage…, lameness…, swelling…, or non-weight-bearing… Follow-up was available in 121 cats; 19.8% developed complications after release. Late postoperative complications included infection…, regrowth…, P2 protrusion…, palmagrade stance…, and prolonged, intermittent lameness…

Declaw Complicationsclaw xray
J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Aug 1;213(3):370-3. Comparison of Effects of Elective Tenectomy or Onychectomy in Cats.

Jankowski AJ, Brown DC, Duval J, Gregor TP, Strine LE, Ksiazek LM, Ott AH Department of Clinical Studies, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.

“Objective: To compare short and long-term complications after Tenectomy of the deep digital flexor tendons or onychectomy. Animals: 20 cats undergoing Tenectomy and 18 cats undergoing onychectomy. Procedure: Cats undergoing Tenectomy or onychectomy were monitored for a minimum of 5 months to enable comparison of type and frequency of complications. Type and frequency of complications did not differ between procedures. Clinical Implications: Owners should be aware of the high complication rate for both procedures.”

Psychological & Behavioral Complications

Some cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change. Cats who were lively and friendly have become withdrawn and introverted after being declawed. Others, deprived of their primary means of defense, become nervous, fearful, and/or aggressive, often resorting to their only remaining means of defense, their teeth. In some cases, when declawed cats use the litterbox after surgery, their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box…permanently, resulting in a life-long adversion to using the litter box. Other declawed cats that can no longer mark with their claws, they mark with urine instead resulting in inappropriate elimination problems, which in many cases, results in relinquishment of the cats to shelters and ultimately euthanasia. Many of the cats surrendered to shelters are surrendered because of behavioral problems which developed after the cats were declawed.

Many declawed cats become so traumatized by this painful mutilation that they end up spending their maladjusted lives perched on top of doors and refrigerators, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against whom they no longer have any adequate defense. A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defense. Removing the claws makes a cat feel defenseless. The constant state of stress caused by a feeling of defenselessness may make some declawed cats more prone to disease. Stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological disorders including supression of the immune system, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“The consequences of declawing are often pathetic. Changes in behavior can occur. A declawed cat frequently resorts to biting when confronted with even minor threats. Biting becomes an overcompensation for the insecurity of having no claws. Bungled surgery can result in the regrowth of deformed claws or in an infection leading to gangrene. Balance is affected by the inability to grasp with their claws. Chronic physical ailments such as cystitis or skin disorders can be manifestations of a declawed cat’s frustration and stress”
David E. Hammett, DVM

Moral, Ethical and Humane Considerations

The veterinary justification for declawing is that the owner may otherwise dispose of the cat, perhaps cruelly. It is ethically inappropriate, in the long term, for veterinarians to submit to this form of moral blackmail from their clients.

“The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights is opposed to cosmetic surgeries and to those performed to correct ‘vices.’ Declawing generally is unacceptable because the suffering and disfigurement it causes is not offset by any benefits to the cat. Declawing is done strictly to provide convenience for people.”
The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)
“Some veterinarians have argued that some people would have their cats killed if declawing was not an option. We should not, however, allow ourselves to taken ’emotional hostage’ like this. If a person really would kill her or his cat in this case, it is reasonable to question the suitability of that person as a feline guardian, especially when there are millions of non-declawed cats living in harmony with people.”
Most people are vehemently opposed to declawing due to a combination of reasons: 1) because the end (owner convenience) doesn’t justify the means (causing unnecessary pain to the cat); 2) because other, less harmful alternatives to declawing exist and 3) because claws are part of the nature or “catness” of cats. Overall, the view is that it is ethically inappropriate to remove parts of an animal’s anatomy, thereby causing the animal pain, merely to fit the owner’s lifestyle, aesthetics, or convenience without any benefit to the cat. It should be emphasized that “most people” includes virtually the entire adult population of Europe and many other countries around the world.

Many countries are particularly concerned about animal welfare and have banned declawing as abusive and causing unnecessary pain and suffering with no benefit to the cat. One highly regarded veterinary textbook by Turner and Bateson on the biology of cat behavior concludes a short section on scratching behavior with the following statement: “The operative removal of the claws, as is sometimes practiced to protect furniture and curtains, is an act of abuse and should be forbidden by law in all, not just a few countries.”

The following is a partial list of countries in which declawing cats is either illegal or considered extremely inhumane and only performed under extreme medical circumstances:

England – Scotland – Wales – Italy – Austria – Switzerland – Norway – Sweden – Ireland – Denmark – Finland – Slovenia – Brazil – Australia – New Zealand – Yugoslavia – France – Germany – Bosnia – Malta – Netherlands – Northern Ireland – Portugal – Belgium – Israel

Cat Fanciers Association

Declawing of Cats – CFA Guidance Statement: Approved by the CFA Board of Directors – October 1996
by Joan Miller, CFA Health Committee

“CFA’s Health Committee proposed the following guidance statement on the declawing of cats after review of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) position concerning declawing, and after research of scientific articles and information from the Cornell Feline Health Center, from Joan Miller’s files of Cat Fancy and animal shelter materials and by talking with veterinarians, feline behavioral specialists, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the President of the American College of Behaviorists and the Director of Ethical Studies at the San Francisco SPCA. At the October 1996 meeting, the CFA Board unanimously approved this guidance statement on the declawing of cats:

CFA perceives the declawing of cats (onychectomy) and the severing of digital tendons (tendonectomy) to be elective surgical procedures which are without benefit to the cat. Because of post operative discomfort or pain, and potential future behavioral or physical effects, CFA disapproves of declawing or tendonectomy surgery.” – Click here for PDF
World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Section 10-Non-therapeutic Surgical Operations on Pet Animals

Surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal for non-therapeutic purposes should be actively discouraged.
Where possible legislation should be enacted to prohibit the performance of non-therapeutic surgical procedures for purely cosmetic purposes, in particular:
Declawing and defanging.
“Exceptions to these prohibitions should be permitted only if a veterinarian considers that the particular surgical procedure is necessary for veterinary medical reasons.”
The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) position on declawing cats:

“A major concern that the AVAR has about declawing is the attitude that is evident in this situation. The cat is treated as if he or she is an inanimate object who can be modified, even to the point of surgical mutilation, to suit a person’s perception of what a cat should be. It would seem more ethical and humane to accept that claws and scratching are inherent feline attributes, and to adjust one’s life accordingly if a cat is desired as a companion. If this is unacceptable, then perhaps a different companion would be in order.”

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Behavioral Pharmacology and Director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and internationally known specialist in domestic animal behavioral research, explains declawing:

“The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats’ recovery from anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain. Cats that are more stoic huddle in the corner of the recovery cage, immobilized in a state of helplessness, presumably by overwhelming pain. Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to this surgery. Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of analgesic drugs. Even though analgesic drugs can be used postoperatively, they rarely are, and their effects are incomplete and transient anyway, so sooner or later the pain will emerge.”
(Excerpted from The Cat Who Cried For Help, Dodman N, Bantam Books, New York).

Declawing robs a cat of an integral means of movement and defense. Because they cannot defend themselves adequately against attacks by other animals, declawed cats who are allowed outdoors may be at increased risk of injury or death. Scratching is a natural instinct for cats and declawing causes a significant degree of privation with respect to satisfying the instinctive impulses to climb, chase, exercise, and to mark territory by scratching. Cats simply enjoy scratching. The sensible and humane solution to undesirable scratching is to modify the cat’s conduct by making changes in the environment and direct the cat’s natural scratching behavior to an appropriate area (e.g., scratching post) rather than surgically altering the cat, thereby causing the animal pain, merely to fit the owner’s lifestyle, aesthetics, or convenience.

The fact that many cats recover from the hideous experience of declawing without untoward effects, and even though they may not hold grudges, that doesn’t seem sufficient justification for putting a family member through such a repugnant experience. In short, a declawed cat is a maimed, mutilated cat, and no excuse can justify the operation. Your cat should trust you, and depend upon you for protection. Don’t betray that trust by declawing your cat.

Compliments of: Max’s House & S.T.A.R.T II (Save The Animals Rescue Team)
http://maxshouse.com/

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What Goes On Behind Closed Doors During A Declaw Procedure-Note From A Vet Tech

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 Here’s a note and some photos I received from a vet tech. The public needs to see the awful truth about declawing. Cat owners drop their cats off at their unethical declawing vet’s practices and they need to see what goes on behind the scenes while their cats are having their toe bones and claws barbarically amputated. If more of them saw these photos and read these notes, they most likely would NEVER do this cat cruelty again to a cat. Please share these posts. The world needs to see the truth.

 Dear City,
I have been a vet tech for over 2 years now. When I first started, I assisted my vet with declaws. After the first declaw procedure I witnessed, I could bear no more. I now refuse to assist in any of these procedures and do everything I can to persuade clients to avoid doing this to their beloved pets. Most clients have no idea what the procedure consists of and I feel the lack of education about declawing is a huge reason why people do this to their cats. The clinic I work for charges $90 for the front two paws and about $120 for all four paws. We also have package deals if you do it with the spay/neuter, which I feel promotes declaws even more. We probably do about 3 declaws a month. My vet does not do any counseling on the procedure, but he doesn’t push for it either. I speak up as much as I can about the alternatives; I have stopped numerous clients from declawing their cats by educating them. However, it’s the doctor’s word that the clients follow. It is my dream to have this horrible procedure banned worldwide.

While many think there is a quick recovery from a declaw procedure, this photo shows the horrendous aftermath of a four paw declaw’s bandage removal. The cat simply shook its paw and blood started pouring out. Unfortunately the cat was 4 years old, with fully developed nerves in the paws and toes. I cannot imagine the pain this innocent and loving cat had to have been in. Regardless of age, it is painful for a feline to have its claws and toes removed. Does this look like its worth saving a sofa?


MORE THAN YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT “CAT-SCRATCH DISEASE” – by the Paw Project

The Paw Project
12 hrs ·
MORE THAN YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT “CAT-SCRATCH DISEASE” – by the Paw Project
First, “Cat-Scratch Disease” is a misnomer…caused by misunderstanding about the cause of the disease. In scientific literature, the disease is currently more often called Bartonellosis. Bartonellosis, caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae, is transmitted via flea feces. Declawing is not recommended on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage regarding prevention of Bartonellosis (http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html). While it can be argued that flea “dirt” embedded under a cat’s nails can be the source of infection when a person is scratched, it can also be caused by flea bites, or any wound caused by any means that is contaminated by fleas feces containing the Bartonella bacteria. The logical and medically sound method of prevention is to provide solid, ongoing flea control, not amputation of a cat’s digits.

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A Rant From A Paw Project Veterinarian Director-STOP! Just stop.

Janet Gordon Palm
20 hrs
WARNING. A RANT IS ABOUT TO ENSUE.
A CALL TO ACTION TO MY VETERINARY COLLEAGUES.
STOP! Just stop.

Today I am simultaneously elated, and deflated.
I am elated that New Jersey just passed an anti-declawing bill through the first committee meeting. Soon, they will be on the right side of history on this issue. The enlightened Veterinarians and public will be following in the footsteps of Denver, British Columbia, and several California cities, not to mention 32 countries in banning multiple digit amputations.

I am ashamed and disappointed in many of my colleagues. How can a “Feline Friendly” or Fear Free” certification even be promoted in the same practice that allows declawing- for ANY reason. (An exception for medical reasons for the CAT’S benefit exists-such as in trauma or cancer)
Some Veterinarians I have questioned profess that they are adamant that they are against the government dictating their client-doctor decisions. FYI- The government would not be called on to create a ban, if veterinarians would take a committed stand against this inhumane procedure.

EVOLVE ALREADY!
There is absolutely NO adequate reason to currently declaw a cat. Excuses that have been disproved include:
1) Human Health/Immunosuppressed reasons. The CDC does NOT condone declawing for human health reasons. Cats are more likely to bite, or become aggressive once declawed. A biting cat would be much worse than a scratch.
2) There will be more homeless cats.
Contrary to another popular myth, a recent study has shown that MORE cats are surrendered to rescues AFTER declawing, due to the behavioral changes that have now been documented.
3) Landlords require declawing. Landlords that previously demanded renters have all cats declawed to “protect their structures” will now allow a letter written in the cats defense by the veterinarian. When they become educated that more cats urinate outside of the box once declawed, they acquiesce.
U.K. veterinarians that have come to the U.S. report that they’ve not seen so many cat behavioral problems until practicing in the US, and they are all declawed. (It is illegal in Europe).

I don’t like to point blame. I would rather educate so as Maya Angelou was quoted as saying: “Once we know better, do better” The public requires education so they will know enough not to request this. I challenge those veterinarians that are too set in their antiquated ways to evolve, to THINK through what long term “phantom” pain complications an amputee actually endures, not to mention having to walk on each of the stubs-forever.
Those cats that seemingly compensate and show no signs to an owner, have no comparison to what life would have been like fully equipped to comfortably stretch, run and turn on a dime, in lightening speed.

I am not trying to be arrogant I promise. I am ashamed and saddened to admit that I too had performed this procedure in the past, as a last resort, thinking I was helping to keep cats in the home. We now know that they are actually better off being given up, as they have a better chance of thriving.

This long and hard fought challenge to educate to inspire, motivate and touch people to make the right decisions for cats, turned into today’s rant, as it was fueled today by this poor baby. Goldie was surrendered to the Roice Hurst Humane Society when his owner passed away. He is 12 years old, declawed with many of the pads cut away, and lesions on his feet indicating possible pathology internally. He is obviously obese, since he adopted a sedentary lifestyle years ago to compensate.
I was called to see if there is anything we can do to help him find a home. He is so grumpy that adoption is not likely for him unless we can determine the source of pain and see if managing that will turn him back into the sweetheart he showed himself to be with me today.
The plan is to laser him today with my Erchonia non-heat producing Class 2 Laser, get him on Gabapentin for pain, take him to a local clinic tomorrow to get x-rays on his feet and blood tests.
I appreciate the veterinarian working with me on this (I don’t have her permission yet to disclose their information) as well as Jodi Summers from Roice Hurst. Will keep you posted.

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Partial Digital Amputation (Onychectomy or Declawing) of the Domestic Felid – Position Statement 3/16/2017

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Position

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes elective and non-therapeutic Partial Digital Amputation (PDA), commonly known as declawing or onychectomy, of domestic cats.

PARTIAL DIGITAL AMPUTATION (ONYCHECTOMY OR DECLAWING) OF THE DOMESTIC FELID – POSITION STATEMENT

Summary

  • Scratching is a normal behaviour in cats.
  • The CVMA views non-therapeutic PDA as ethically unacceptable when performed without comprehensive client education including a thorough review of available alternatives, as the surgery has the potential to cause unnecessary and avoidable pain and alternatives to PDA are available.
  • Veterinarians should educate clients about strategies that provide alternatives to PDA.

Background

  1. Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. It is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and assists with nail conditioning and whole body stretching. Nails are used by cats to assist with balance, climbing, and self-defence.
  2. Partial digital amputation (PDA) is the surgical removal of the third phalanx of each digit. Non-therapeutic PDA is generally performed for the convenience of the owner to eliminate the ability of a cat to cause damage from scratching. The surgery typically involves the digits of the front paws, although surgery on the digits of all four paws is sometimes undertaken.
  3. Veterinarians strive to use their scientific knowledge to promote animal health and welfare and relieve animal suffering in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics (1). With or without concrete scientific evidence, ethical consideration has to be given to the welfare of the animal. Veterinarians need to consider what advantages non-medically driven PDA’s offer to the feline. Viable alternatives to PDAs exist. Therefore from an ethical viewpoint, the CVMA views this surgery as unacceptable as it offers no advantage to the feline and the lack of scientific evidence leaves us unable to predict the likelihood of long-term behavioural and physical negative side effects.
  4. The CVMA recognizes that appropriate medical therapy may necessitate surgery, including PDA (2). Medically necessary PDA surgery may include, but is not restricted to, biopsy of a nail or phalanx or surgery  to treat: neoplasia of nail bed or phalanges, severe or irreversible trauma, immune-mediated disease affecting nail bed, paronychia (inflammation or infection), onychodystrophy (abnormal formation), onychogryphosis (hypertrophy and abnormal curvature), onychomadesis (sloughing), onychomalacia (softening), onychomycosis (fungal infection), or onychoschizia (splitting) (3).
  5. Surgical amputation of the third phalynx of the digit alters the expression of normal behaviours in cats, causes avoidable short-term acute pain, and has the potential to cause chronic pain and negative long-term orthopedic consequences (2,4-7).
  6. As with any surgery, PDA can result in complications due to adverse reactions to anesthetics, hemorrhage, infection, and lack of effective perioperative pain management.
  7. Since the third phalanx is removed by PDA, cats must thereafter bear their weight on the second phalanx. This fact has implicated PDA as a cause of lameness. It is recognized, however, that lameness is difficult to diagnose and detect (5). For this and other reasons the long term orthopedic effects of PDA are poorly understood.
  8. A recent long-term study assessed cats six months after PDA (6,7). No significant differences were found between cats that had undergone bilateral forelimb onychectomy with successful outcomes and cats that had not. Specifically no differences were noted in peak vertical force and vertical impulse, the most commonly evaluated parameters in kinetic gait analysis, when measured at least 6 months after surgery. Since the original study only considered cats with successful surgical outcomes, the results likely have limited application and generalizability.
  9. Both acute and chronic pain in felines can result in an increase in behaviours such as inappropriate elimination, excessive vocalization and increased aggression. The CVMA believes that current studies on long-term behavioural effects as a result of PDA are insufficient to draw firm conclusions about its role in causing chronic pain. The CVMA will therefore continue to review new studies as they are published (8,9).
  10. It has been suggested that PDA be performed on cats in order to decrease the health risk to immunocompromised humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list PDA as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals (10).
  11. There are currently no peer-reviewed studies that identify a higher rate of relinquishment of cats with intact claws versus cats that have undergone PDA, including in countries in which PDAs have been banned. Partial digital amputation is not considered to be a justifiable alternative to relinquishment (11).
  12. Tendonectomy is not an acceptable alternative to PDA because it causes similar pain post-surgery (8) and could lead to increased complications if the nails are not properly maintained.
  13. Veterinarians should educate their clients about reasonable and effective alternatives to PDA including providing advice on the design and location of scratching posts and other suitable scratching materials and approaches aimed at preventing aggressive play behaviours.
  14. Other strategies that offer alternatives to PDA include:
  • feline pheromone sprays to redirect the cat to more desirable scratching materials;
  • double-sided tape to deter cats from scratching the edges of furniture;
  • regular nail trimming (recommended every two weeks);
  • artificial nail covers;
  • environmental enrichment and appropriate daily play to decrease feline aggression;
  • avoidance of hand/foot play which can lead the cat to see these human parts as prey;
  • the application of basic principles of reinforcement of desirable behaviour, including the use of catnip, treats, and verbal praise.
  1. Partial digital amputation procedures are currently banned in several countries and/or regions including the United Kingdom (e.g., Ireland, England), Europe, and Australia.
  2. In the current absence of a legislated ban on PDA surgery in Canadian jurisdictions, the CVMA, though opposed to elective and non-therapeutic PDA, supports the actions of provincial veterinary governing bodies that require that veterinarians, as a minimum, provide clients with information regarding PDA surgery, potential side-effects, and alternatives that is sufficient for owners to give informed consent (12).
  1. Veterinarians have the right to refuse to perform non-therapeutic PDA surgery. If alternatives fail to alleviate undesirable scratching behaviours, veterinarians have the right and responsibility to use professional judgement for a humane and ethical outcome.

References

  1. CVMA Veterinarians Oath. 2004. Available from: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/about/veterinary-oath Last accessed September 30, 2016.
  2. Mills KE, von Keyserlingk MA, Niel L. A review of medically unnecessary surgeries in dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;248:162-171.
  3. Verde M. 2005. Canine and Feline Nail Diseases. Proceedings of the NAVC. Available from: http://www.ivis.org/proceedings/navc/2005/SAE/110.pdf?LA=1 Last accessed August 2, 2016.
  4. Robinson DA, Romans CW, Gordon-Evans WJ, et al. Evaluation of short-term limb function following unilateral carbon dioxide laser or scalpel onychectomy in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2007;230:353–358.
  5. Stamper C. Osteoarthritis in Cats: A More Common Disease Than You Might Expect. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm382772.htm Last accessed March 30 2016.
  6. Romans CW, Conzemius MG, Horstman CL, Gordon WJ, Evans RB. Use of pressure platform gait analysis in cats with and without bilateral ocychectomy. Am J Vet Res 2004;65:1276-1278.
  1. Schnabl E, Bockstahler B. Systematic review of ground reaction force measurement in cats. Vet J 2015;206:83-90.
  2. Hellyer P, Rodan I, Brunt J, Downing R, Hagedorn JE, Robertson SA. AAHA/AAFP pain management guidelines for dogs and cats. J Fel Med and Surg 207;9:466-480.
  3. Cloutier S, Newberry RC, Cambridge AJ, Tobias KM. Behavioural signs of postoperative pain in cats following onychectomy or tenectomy surgery. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2005;92:325-335.
  4. Panel on Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected adults and adolescents: Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Available from: https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/lvguidelines/adult_oi.pdf Last accessed March 30 2016.
  5. ASPCA Position Statement on Declawing Cats. Available from: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-declawing-cats. Last accessed March 30, 2016.
  6. Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association Information and Consent Form for clients who request cat declawing. Available from: http://celticcreatures.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/281/2015/04/declaw.pdf.Last accessed March 30, 2016.

(Revised November 2016)

LINK TO POSITION STATEMENT